Germany’s hospital reform: What you need to know
The way hospitals in Germany are organised and funded is set to change radically by the end of this year; here’s what you need to know about Karl Lauterbach’s planned reforms, which are designed to improve the quality of care at local clinics.
Lauterbach announces German hospital reforms
SPD Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has announced that government ministers have now agreed on a plan to shake up the way hospitals in Germany are financed and organised.
With the reforms, which Lauterbach has been pushing for since 2021, the minister hopes to reduce patient backlogs and ensure that certain types of care are of a consistently high standard.
Currently, the German healthcare system is organised in such a way that hospitals are allocated government funding based on the number of cases that they treat. According to Lauterbach, this system leads many hospitals, particularly those in areas with a small population, to take on too many patients or patients who have serious illnesses that they are not equipped to treat at that location so that funding can be secured.
Lauterbach’s reforms want to shift the focus to quality over quantity. Once they are passed, the government will allocate funding to specific hospitals based on the quality of treatment they provide rather than the volume of patients being treated.
Ministers representing Germany’s 16 federal states have now voted on the reforms, with all voting in favour aside from Bavaria voting against and Schleswig-Holstein abstaining. If the reform passes through the Bundestag and Bundesrat this autumn it is likely to apply from January 1, 2024.
How might you be affected by Germany’s hospital reforms?
Since reunification, hospitals in Germany have been facing a dire financial shortfall and have become increasingly vulnerable to closure. Though Lauterbach has stressed that it is already too late to save some clinics, the minister hopes that his reforms can act as a “survival guarantee” for rural hospitals in particular.
The changes mean that the quality of healthcare services for people living in rural areas should improve, while the number of services a single clinic offers will likely decrease. While people with more complex health problems may have to travel further to see a specialist, doctors at rural hospitals will be able to provide a higher standard of basic care for everyone.
Government ministers are also working on the so-called Transparency Act as part of the reforms. In future, the Transparency Act will allow patients to find out more information about hospitals like the quality and kind of care they offer and maybe even the waiting times for specific treatments.
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